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Civil Rights

Several events in the history of America’s civil rights movement marked

turning points that changed or illuminated aspects of the movement. For

example, when a governor from Arkansas closed down the school system to

prevent Black children from attending white schools, it brought up

the resistance the movement would face. A turning point in the movement

was the formation of the Black Panther party, marking a change from

nonviolent protest. These events in the history of the movement are the

reasons why the public received such apprehension into the situation, and why

many new civil rights acts and laws were passed in the long run.

An important event was the ill-fated march of Selma, Alabama. Dr.

Martin Luther King, one of the leaders of the movement, began a voting

registration drive in Selma in early 1965. Black people trying to

register were met though with abuse and violence from white employees,

county police, and unfair literacy tests. To bring up the Black

public’s moral, Dr. King proposed a allusive march between Selma and

Montgomery. This march would take several days to complete because it

it stretched over 54 miles. Unfortunately, the first attempts for this march were

met with tear gas and mounted state troopers near the border of Selma.

These events sparked outrage from the public, and from president Linden

B. Johnson. The brutality of the city officials and state troopers

showed the public and the national government the field of White

resistance. It sparked the Voting rights act of 1965, soon after made

the 15th amendment. It abolished the unfair literacy tests, poll taxes,

or any other similar legal device that would have inhibited voters. The

act helped other minority groups because the literacy tests and poll

taxes inhibited them too. The march of Selma is also related to the

14th amendment that nationalizes the Bill of rights. This means the

14th amendment makes the 1st amendment applicable to the states, and one

of the guarantees of the 1st amendment is the right to peaceful

assembly, which the march of Selma was. After two more tries, the Selma

march proceeded without being stopped on Sunday, March 21, 1965. It was

25,000 strong, which was a great increase compared to the 3,200 in the

first attempt.

James Meredith was one of the first Black students to attend

previously “all White” schools. The governor of Mississippi then was

Ross Burnett. To ambush Meredith and the NAACP, he called upon the

Doctrine of Interpolation to prevent Meredith from registering. The

Doctrine was an old pre Civil War law that gave the states power to stop

laws from the federal government. This Doctrine became abolished when the

Confederacy lost the war. Although it may seem asinine, the issue about

the use of the Doctrine would have dragged on with pointless debating

while Meredith was still banned from attending the University.

President Kennedy, determined to see Meredith in Mississippi University,

sent U.S. Marshals to the University while he made a public broadcast

explaining his actions an the need for Meredith to be allowed to go to

“Old Miss.” A fight arouse between the White public and Marshals, but

eventually, Meredith was accepted. Meredith was fighting for Equality

before the Law and the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment.

There had been a Separate-but-Equal Doctrine that was a constitutional

basis for segregation laws that were aimed at the Black minority group,

but also effected the other ethnic groups as well. The Doctrine was

formed when in 1896 the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana law requiring

the segregation of Whites and Blacks in rail coaches. It held that the

law didn’t violate the Equal Protection Clause because the separate

facilities for Blacks were equal to those for Whites. Cases like

Meredith’s, chipped away at the Doctrine, causing Supreme Court

decisions like the confirmation that segregation by race in public

school is unconstitutional. This helped the other ethnic groups because

they were being segregated against too.

These events in the history of the civil rights movement were critical

for its success. They didn’t benefit just the Blacks but others as well. They helped change the way the Constitution was interpreted to benefit the other

minority groups as well. Schools today aren’t just made up of White and

Black people, but also consist of many other races. They shed

some light on the social situation at that time, and were turning points

in a long struggle. These single events, if interpreted corrected, can

explain the whole course of the movement.

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